Bird Checklist
for Tawas Point State Park

Iosco County, Michigan

298 species

Last updated - January 8, 2011

Tawas Point State Park is on the end of a sand spit on the northwest shore of Lake Huron's Saginaw Bay, west across the bay from Michigan's "thumb" and near Tawas City and East Tawas.

This park is undoubtedly the best migrant trap in the Saginaw Bay area. Birding is best during times of rapid migration such as during strong south winds in spring and strong north winds in fall. The spring migrants tend to follow the lakeshore and actually migrate south for a time to the tip of the point, which faces southwest. Bad weather after a prolonged high pressure situation also tends to ground many migrants in the park. Soon after these conditions subside, the spring migrants slowly work their way northward out of the park. Equally impressive migrations occur in the fall. North and westerly winds push passerine migrants south and to the east edge of the Michigan land mass, respectively. Late August and September are the best for the majority of passerines. The stronger flying water birds and sparrows are seen in large numbers later in the fall (October and early November) especially during periods of strong north and east winds which force them south and towards the shoreline. [excerpted, with permission, from Birds and Bird Finding in the Saginaw Bay Area (1995), by Ron J. Weeks]

The Tawas Point Birding Festival, a three-day event, is held each year in mid May at Tawas Point State Park. The festival includes seminars and field trips to birding sites in the Tawas Point area.

This birding site and its location are described further at the bottom of this document.

Checklist of the Birds of Tawas Point State Park

No claim is made that this is an "official" checklist, but it can be considered a reliable guide to the birds that may be found at Tawas Point State Park.

English NameScientific Name
  Snow Goose  Chen caerulescens
  Canada Goose  Branta canadensis
  Brant [Casual]  Branta bernicla
  Mute Swan  Cygnus olor
  Trumpeter Swan  Cygnus buccinator
  Tundra Swan  Cygnus columbianus
  Wood Duck  Aix sponsa
  Gadwall  Anas strepera
  American Wigeon  Anas americana
  American Black Duck  Anas rubripes
  Mallard  Anas platyrhynchos
  Blue-winged Teal  Anas discors
  Northern Shoveler  Anas clypeata
  Northern Pintail  Anas acuta
  Green-winged Teal  Anas crecca
  Canvasback  Aythya valisineria
  Redhead  Aythya americana
  Ring-necked Duck  Aythya collaris
  Greater Scaup  Aythya marila
  Lesser Scaup  Aythya affinis
  Harlequin Duck1  Histrionicus histrionicus
  Surf Scoter  Melanitta perspicillata
  White-winged Scoter  Melanitta fusca
  Black Scoter  Melanitta americana
  Long-tailed Duck  Clangula hyemalis
  Bufflehead  Bucephala albeola
  Common Goldeneye  Bucephala clangula
  Hooded Merganser  Lophodytes cucullatus
  Common Merganser  Mergus merganser
  Red-breasted Merganser  Mergus serrator
  Ring-necked Pheasant  Phasianus colchicus
  Ruffed Grouse  Bonasa umbellus
  Wild Turkey  Meleagris gallopavo
NEW WORLD QUAILOdontophoridae
  -----  -----
  Red-throated Loon  Gavia stellata
  Common Loon  Gavia immer
  Pied-billed Grebe  Podilymbus podiceps
  Horned Grebe  Podiceps auritus
  Red-necked Grebe  Podiceps grisegena
  -----  -----
  American White Pelican  Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
  Double-crested Cormorant  Phalacrocorax auritus
  American Bittern  Botaurus lentiginosus
  Least Bittern  Ixobrychus exilis
  Great Blue Heron  Ardea herodias
  Great Egret  Ardea alba
  Snowy Egret  Egretta thula
  Tricolored Heron [Casual]  Egretta tricolor
  Green Heron  Butorides virescens
  Black-crowned Night-Heron  Nycticorax nycticorax
IBISES and SPOONBILLSThreskiornithidae
  -----  -----
  Turkey Vulture  Cathartes aura
  Osprey  Pandion haliaetus
  Bald Eagle  Haliaeetus leucocephalus
  Northern Harrier  Circus cyaneus
  Sharp-shinned Hawk  Accipiter striatus
  Cooper's Hawk  Accipiter cooperii
  Northern Goshawk  Accipiter gentilis
  Red-shouldered Hawk  Buteo lineatus
  Broad-winged Hawk  Buteo platypterus
  Red-tailed Hawk  Buteo jamaicensis
  Rough-legged Hawk  Buteo lagopus
  Golden Eagle  Aquila chrysaetos
  American Kestrel  Falco sparverius
  Merlin  Falco columbarius
  Gyrfalcon  Falco rusticolus
  Peregrine Falcon  Falco peregrinus
  Virginia Rail  Rallus limicola
  Sora  Porzana carolina
  Common Moorhen  Gallinula chloropus
  American Coot  Fulica americana
  Sandhill Crane  Grus canadensis
PLOVERS and LAPWINGSCharadriidae
  Black-bellied Plover  Pluvialis squatarola
  American Golden-Plover  Pluvialis dominica
  Wilson's Plover [Accidental]  Charadrius wilsonia
  Semipalmated Plover  Charadrius semipalmatus
  Piping Plover  Charadrius melodus
  Killdeer  Charadrius vociferus
STILTS and AVOCETSRecurvirostridae
  American Avocet  Recurvirostra americana
  Spotted Sandpiper  Actitis macularius
  Solitary Sandpiper  Tringa solitaria
  Greater Yellowlegs  Tringa melanoleuca
  Willet  Tringa semipalmata
  Lesser Yellowlegs  Tringa flavipes
  Upland Sandpiper  Bartramia longicauda
  Whimbrel  Numenius phaeopus
  Hudsonian Godwit  Limosa haemastica
  Marbled Godwit  Limosa fedoa
  Ruddy Turnstone  Arenaria interpres
  Red Knot  Calidris canutus
  Sanderling  Calidris alba
  Semipalmated Sandpiper  Calidris pusilla
  Western Sandpiper  Calidris mauri
  Least Sandpiper  Calidris minutilla
  White-rumped Sandpiper  Calidris fuscicollis
  Baird's Sandpiper  Calidris bairdii
  Pectoral Sandpiper  Calidris melanotos
  Dunlin  Calidris alpina
  Stilt Sandpiper  Calidris himantopus
  Buff-breasted Sandpiper  Tryngites subruficollis
  Ruff [Casual]  Philomachus pugnax
  Short-billed Dowitcher  Limnodromus griseus
  Long-billed Dowitcher  Limnodromus scolopaceus
  Wilson's Snipe  Gallinago delicata
  American Woodcock  Scolopax minor
  Wilson's Phalarope  Phalaropus tricolor
  Red-necked Phalarope  Phalaropus lobatus
  Red Phalarope [Casual]  Phalaropus fulicarius
  Bonaparte's Gull  Chroicocephalus philadelphia
  Black-headed Gull [Accidental]  Chroicocephalus ridibundus
  Little Gull  Hydrocoloeus minutus
  Laughing Gull  Leucophaeus atricilla
  Franklin's Gull  Leucophaeus pipixcan
  Mew Gull [Accidental]  Larus canus
  Ring-billed Gull  Larus delawarensis
  Herring Gull  Larus argentatus
  Thayer's Gull  Larus thayeri
  Iceland Gull  Larus glaucoides
  Lesser Black-backed Gull  Larus fuscus
  Glaucous Gull  Larus hyperboreus
  Great Black-backed Gull  Larus marinus
  Least Tern [Casual]  Sternula antillarum
  Caspian Tern  Hydroprogne caspia
  Black Tern  Chlidonias niger
  Common Tern  Sterna hirundo
  Forster's Tern  Sterna forsteri
SKUAS and JAEGERSStercorariidae
  jaeger species  Stercorarius ---
PIGEONS and DOVESColumbidae
  Rock Pigeon  Columba livia
  Mourning Dove  Zenaida macroura
  Yellow-billed Cuckoo  Coccyzus americanus
  Black-billed Cuckoo  Coccyzus erythropthalmus
BARN OWLSTytonidae
  Barn Owl [Accidental]  Tyto alba
  Eastern Screech-Owl  Megascops asio
  Great Horned Owl  Bubo virginianus
  Snowy Owl  Bubo scandiacus
  Barred Owl  Strix varia
  Long-eared Owl  Asio otus
  Short-eared Owl  Asio flammeus
  Northern Saw-whet Owl  Aegolius acadicus
  Common Nighthawk  Chordeiles minor
  Eastern Whip-poor-will  Caprimulgus vociferus
  White-collared Swift [Accidental]  Streptoprocne zonaris
  Chimney Swift  Chaetura pelagica
  Ruby-throated Hummingbird  Archilochus colubris
  Belted Kingfisher  Megaceryle alcyon
  Red-headed Woodpecker  Melanerpes erythrocephalus
  Red-bellied Woodpecker  Melanerpes carolinus
  Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  Sphyrapicus varius
  Downy Woodpecker  Picoides pubescens
  Hairy Woodpecker  Picoides villosus
  Black-backed Woodpecker  Picoides arcticus
  Northern Flicker  Colaptes auratus
  Pileated Woodpecker  Dryocopus pileatus
  Olive-sided Flycatcher  Contopus cooperi
  Eastern Wood-Pewee  Contopus virens
  Yellow-bellied Flycatcher  Empidonax flaviventris
  Acadian Flycatcher  Empidonax virescens
  Alder Flycatcher  Empidonax alnorum
  Willow Flycatcher  Empidonax traillii
  Least Flycatcher  Empidonax minimus
  Eastern Phoebe  Sayornis phoebe
  Say's Phoebe [Casual]  Sayornis saya
  Great Crested Flycatcher  Myiarchus crinitus
  Couch's Kingbird2 [Accidental]  Tyrannus couchii
  Western Kingbird  Tyrannus verticalis
  Eastern Kingbird  Tyrannus tyrannus
  Scissor-tailed Flycatcher3 [Casual]  Tyrannus forficatus
  Loggerhead Shrike  Lanius ludovicianus
  Northern Shrike  Lanius excubitor
  White-eyed Vireo  Vireo griseus
  Bell's Vireo [Casual]  Vireo bellii
  Yellow-throated Vireo  Vireo flavifrons
  Blue-headed Vireo  Vireo solitarius
  Warbling Vireo  Vireo gilvus
  Philadelphia Vireo  Vireo philadelphicus
  Red-eyed Vireo  Vireo olivaceus
  Blue Jay  Cyanocitta cristata
  American Crow  Corvus brachyrhynchos
  Common Raven  Corvus corax
  Horned Lark  Eremophila alpestris
  Purple Martin  Progne subis
  Tree Swallow  Tachycineta bicolor
  Northern Rough-winged Swallow  Stelgidopteryx serripennis
  Bank Swallow  Riparia riparia
  Cliff Swallow  Petrochelidon pyrrhonota
  Barn Swallow  Hirundo rustica
  Black-capped Chickadee  Poecile atricapillus
  Tufted Titmouse  Baeolophus bicolor
  Red-breasted Nuthatch  Sitta canadensis
  White-breasted Nuthatch  Sitta carolinensis
  Brown Creeper  Certhia americana
  Carolina Wren  Thryothorus ludovicianus
  House Wren  Troglodytes aedon
  Winter Wren  Troglodytes hiemalis
  Sedge Wren  Cistothorus platensis
  Marsh Wren  Cistothorus palustris
  Golden-crowned Kinglet  Regulus satrapa
  Ruby-crowned Kinglet  Regulus calendula
  Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  Polioptila caerulea
  Eastern Bluebird  Sialia sialis
  Townsend's Solitaire  Myadestes townsendi
  Veery  Catharus fuscescens
  Gray-cheeked Thrush  Catharus minimus
  Swainson's Thrush  Catharus ustulatus
  Hermit Thrush  Catharus guttatus
  Wood Thrush  Hylocichla mustelina
  American Robin  Turdus migratorius
  Gray Catbird  Dumetella carolinensis
  Northern Mockingbird  Mimus polyglottos
  Brown Thrasher  Toxostoma rufum
  European Starling  Sturnus vulgaris
WAGTAILS and PIPITSMotacillidae
  American Pipit  Anthus rubescens
  Bohemian Waxwing  Bombycilla garrulus
  Cedar Waxwing  Bombycilla cedrorum
  Lapland Longspur  Calcarius lapponicus
  Snow Bunting  Plectrophenax nivalis
  Blue-winged Warbler  Vermivora pinus
  Golden-winged Warbler  Vermivora chrysoptera
  Tennessee Warbler  Oreothlypis peregrina
  Orange-crowned Warbler  Oreothlypis celata
  Nashville Warbler  Oreothlypis ruficapilla
  Northern Parula  Parula americana
  Yellow Warbler  Dendroica petechia
  Chestnut-sided Warbler  Dendroica pensylvanica
  Magnolia Warbler  Dendroica magnolia
  Cape May Warbler  Dendroica tigrina
  Black-throated Blue Warbler  Dendroica caerulescens
  Yellow-rumped Warbler  Dendroica coronata
  Black-throated Green Warbler  Dendroica virens
  Blackburnian Warbler  Dendroica fusca
  Yellow-throated Warbler  Dendroica dominica
  Pine Warbler  Dendroica pinus
  Kirtland's Warbler  Dendroica kirtlandii
  Prairie Warbler  Dendroica discolor
  Palm Warbler  Dendroica palmarum
  Bay-breasted Warbler  Dendroica castanea
  Blackpoll Warbler  Dendroica striata
  Cerulean Warbler  Dendroica cerulea
  Black-and-white Warbler  Mniotilta varia
  American Redstart  Setophaga ruticilla
  Prothonotary Warbler  Protonotaria citrea
  Worm-eating Warbler  Helmitheros vermivorum
  Ovenbird  Seiurus aurocapilla
  Northern Waterthrush  Parkesia noveboracensis
  Louisiana Waterthrush  Parkesia motacilla
  Connecticut Warbler  Oporornis agilis
  Mourning Warbler  Oporornis philadelphia
  Common Yellowthroat  Geothlypis trichas
  Hooded Warbler  Wilsonia citrina
  Wilson's Warbler  Wilsonia pusilla
  Canada Warbler  Wilsonia canadensis
  Yellow-breasted Chat  Icteria virens
  Summer Tanager  Piranga rubra
  Scarlet Tanager  Piranga olivacea
  Western Tanager [Casual]  Piranga ludoviciana
  Eastern Towhee  Pipilo erythrophthalmus
  American Tree Sparrow  Spizella arborea
  Chipping Sparrow  Spizella passerina
  Clay-colored Sparrow  Spizella pallida
  Field Sparrow  Spizella pusilla
  Vesper Sparrow  Pooecetes gramineus
  Lark Sparrow [Casual]  Chondestes grammacus
  Savannah Sparrow  Passerculus sandwichensis
  Grasshopper Sparrow  Ammodramus savannarum
  Henslow's Sparrow  Ammodramus henslowii
  Le Conte's Sparrow  Ammodramus leconteii
  Fox Sparrow  Passerella iliaca
  Song Sparrow  Melospiza melodia
  Lincoln's Sparrow  Melospiza lincolnii
  Swamp Sparrow  Melospiza georgiana
  White-throated Sparrow  Zonotrichia albicollis
  Harris's Sparrow  Zonotrichia querula
  White-crowned Sparrow  Zonotrichia leucophrys
  Dark-eyed Junco  Junco hyemalis
CARDINALS and ALLIESCardinalidae
  Northern Cardinal  Cardinalis cardinalis
  Rose-breasted Grosbeak  Pheucticus ludovicianus
  Blue Grosbeak [Casual]  Passerina caerulea
  Indigo Bunting  Passerina cyanea
  Dickcissel  Spiza americana
  Bobolink  Dolichonyx oryzivorus
  Red-winged Blackbird  Agelaius phoeniceus
  Eastern Meadowlark  Sturnella magna
  Western Meadowlark  Sturnella neglecta
  Yellow-headed Blackbird  Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus
  Rusty Blackbird  Euphagus carolinus
  Brewer's Blackbird  Euphagus cyanocephalus
  Common Grackle  Quiscalus quiscula
  Brown-headed Cowbird  Molothrus ater
  Orchard Oriole  Icterus spurius
  Baltimore Oriole  Icterus galbula
FINCHES and ALLIESFringillidae
  Pine Grosbeak  Pinicola enucleator
  Purple Finch  Carpodacus purpureus
  House Finch  Carpodacus mexicanus
  Red Crossbill  Loxia curvirostra
  White-winged Crossbill  Loxia leucoptera
  Common Redpoll  Carduelis flammea
  Hoary Redpoll  Carduelis hornemanni
  Pine Siskin  Carduelis pinus
  American Goldfinch  Carduelis tristis
  Evening Grosbeak  Coccothraustes vespertinus
  House Sparrow  Passer domesticus


The above species count is for all birds in the list, including species listed below.

1Harlequin Duck - G. T. Moulthrop; November 1958 or 1959 // The following is from Ron Weeks: Gene Kenaga's book (1983) on the Saginaw Bay area says that the Harlequin record is from the unpublished records of G. T. Moulthrop for "first week in Nov 1958 or 1959 Tawas Pt." The sighting may have been at the fishing area just north of the park. It is not possible to say that the sighting was from the park proper as records are designated only "Tawas Pt" in Kenaga's book. Further, Tawas Point State Park may not even have been established in the late 1950s.

2Couch's Kingbird - Sight and voice record, May 27, 2007.

3Scissor-tailed Flycatcher - Myrtle & Elmer Wilke, et al. (Midland Nature Club field trip); May 19, 1984 (Weeks 1995). This record is undocumented and so is not accepted by the MBRC.

MBRC Review List species are in blue.           top

List Contributors

This checklist has been constructed using input from a number of birders who have been among the most frequent and regular visitors to Tawas Point State Park but largely from a list that Ron Weeks emailed to me. I have also used a printed checklist from Tawas Point State Park (copyright Ron Weeks), compiled in November 1997. (Gary Nelkie may be maintaining a current version of that same list.) The Michigan Bird Records Committee, too, has contributed to and reviewed this list. If you have a species in your Tawas Point State Park list that is not in the above checklist, you are invited to submit it for inclusion.


The Tawas Point State Park is located just over an hour's drive north of the Saginaw-Midland-Bay City tri-cities area and less than three hours from the Detroit area. It is at the extreme northwest corner of Saginaw Bay.

Directions and Maps

  Location, directions, and site maps


The following description was excerpted, with permission, from the section on Tawas Point State Park in A Birder's Guide to Michigan (2004), by Allen T. Chartier and Jerry Ziarno.

Tawas Point State Park is one of the the premier birding spots in the Midwest, with more than 290 species recorded. A sandy cape, sometimes referred to as "Michigan's Cape Cod," hooks south and slightly west into Saginaw Bay. The point is an exciting migrant trap in the spring, but can also be very productive through the summer and into autumn. The park consists of 200 acres, with over 200 excellent campsites and long, sandy beaches on both sides of the point. Trails lead from the parking area out to the end of the point and past a lighthouse which is usually open for tours. In early spring and late fall, large numbers of diving ducks ... [are present] in the open waters of Saginaw Bay. A variety of shorebirds may be seen feeding on the vast areas of sand beach, with good numbers arriving in mid-May and remaining through the end of the month and into early June. Fall migrants may arrive early in July, with stragglers lingering to November. ...

Tawas Point is best known for the major fallouts of passerines which occur during migration, generally when weather fronts move through the area in spring. The best time to witness such an event is usually during the period of May 15-25. The trees on the exposed point are not very tall, enabling good views of the many species of passerines that can be present. It is not unusual to observe as many as 24 species of warblers in a single day. ...

Excellent spots for viewing passerines, especially warblers, during a fallout are the scrub pines immediately to the south of the lighthouse, the brushy areas to the right (west) of the main trail about halfway down to the tip, and the scrubby trees at the point itself. Another dependable warbler hotspot is the area between the lighthouse and the campground. Because of Tawas Point's location, there is always the possibility of true rarities. ...

In addition to the Chartier and Ziarno book, see the book by Ron Weeks, Birds and Bird Finding in the Saginaw Bay Area (1995). Also see Joe Soehnel's Saginaw Bay Birding web site.


Tawas Point State Park is open for birding year round. A Michigan State Park Motor Vehicle Permit is required for entry. You may purchase an annual permit ($24, or $6 for seniors 65+) or day permit ($6) as you enter the park. Permits are good at all Michigan state parks and recreation areas.

There is good parking east of the lighthouse and nearby restrooms in a building near the parking lots. At times you may find the gift shop open and the lighthouse open for tours.

There is a large campground area at the north end of the park. The campground is always open, and if the gate to the main part of the park is closed when you get there, you can always park where the garbage dumpsters are located just opposite the campground entrance and walk in from there.

The gate for automobile access to the day use area and lighthouse is open year round and 24 hours per day except from May to September. During those months the gate is closed at 10:00pm and opened at 8:00am.

The entire park is open for walking, but some sections of the beaches (marked) are off limits in spring and summer months as Piping Plovers have several times attempted nesting here.

If you have any questions regarding the State Park, you can call (989) 362-5041 or contact the Manager, Chuck Allen, at allence(AT)

Bruce M. Bowman, 2150 Spruceway Ln., Ann Arbor, Michigan 48103   /  (734) 994-5398
Bird Checklist for Tawas Point State Park Bird Checklist for Tawas Point State Park     top    home

created by / comments to:  Bruce M. Bowman

created: August 11, 2005
last modified: January 8, 2011

This page has been visited times since August 11, 2005.